The Roagna family have been winemakers in the village of Barbaresco since the mid-1800s. It was Giovanni and his wife Maria who moved their house and winery to its present location in the Paglieri hamlet, home to the famous Pajè vineyard. This plot is the foundation of the estate, which in all covers 6 ½ hectares in total, 1.83 of which are were purchased by the Roagna family in 1953.
Alfredo and Luca, father and son, now take care of the property. In 1990, they were able to purchase two slices of renowned vineyard sites of Castiglione Falletto in Barolo, la Pira and le Rocche. These came with a 15th-century farmhouse directly above the vineyard which they renovated to become Casa Roagna, a bed and breakfast overlooking the vines. And over the years, Luca has been able to purchase all of the neighbouring lands on the Pira hill, effectively giving the family a monopole of the site. These acquisitions culminated in a new cellar to vinify and age the Barolo built above the vineyard and finished in 2012.
OLD VINES: Roagna believe that in order to express their terroir it is essential to work with old vines which at their estate are often more than fifty years old: the individuality and beauty of a particular vineyard occurs when plants have extremely deep root systems.
The Langhe soils are of composed of a marine sedimentary origin which contains layers of calcareous clays alternating with bluish-grey marl and sands. The authenticity of each unique expression comes from small differences in the subsoil. It is easy to understand how a fifty-year-old grapevine with roots growing down into many different sedimentary layers can draw unique nutrients and trace elements specific that give that vine distinct characteristics.
Their vines are not fertilized or irrigated. The topsoil is covered with grass which challenges each vine to search deeper for nutrients.
MASSALE SELECTION: They believe that the beauty of a wine begins with a concert played by thousands of unique grapevines where each individual vine interprets their own personal subsoil.
Different rootstalk present in their vineyards have been created using the wood of older vines found in the vineyards which contain site specific geographical indications. This maintains a diverse population to ensure biodiversity and the expression of each individual plant. The beauty of their native variety grapevines in the Langa is derived from centuries of adaption to the land. They consider this essential to keep the plants that have adapted to each single vineyard. The common practice in their vineyards does not mix or modify the rootstalk; instead, they create new plants from their old vines using clippings which have already proven historically to be perfectly adapted to each single vineyard parcel.
In 2012 they began a trial using seeds harvested from the fruit of their oldest vines found in several different parcels to create the next generation of vines. This was a practice of monks centuries ago and it is still particularly important to create the next generation which will help to preserve, and potentially even increase, the biodiversity of their vineyard in the coming years.
BIODIVERSITY, NO HERBICIDES, NO PESTICIDES, NO FERTILIZERS: At Roagna they believe the perfect environment for the life of all plants and animals is found in the forest.
In their vineyards the grapevines live in symbiosis with herbs, microorganisms, and animals all present. Grapevines have been cultivated in this fashion for thousands of years.
To care for each plant, you must first respect everything that surrounds it. They believe in allowing a completely natural cover crop without any mowing which allows for many varieties of plants to coexist.
When a farmer decides to mow, he or she is selecting specific families of herbs to be allowed to grow, usually grass, which are more resistant and less competitive with the vine. They believe that during springtime the vineyard should become a garden filled with flowers and hundreds of different species of plants living in equilibrium with each other. They do not fertilize the ground because we do not want lazy plants with roots that sit only on the surface. They need hearty strains of plants which have root systems that grow several meters deep. In fact, grass is a wonderful help because it competes with the vine in the first meter of soil which then stimulates the roots of the vine to search deeper into the earth. They use copper and sulphur to treat fungal diseases just as their ancestors have done before them.
MATURITY AT HARVEST: Harvest takes place when the berry has reached perfect ripeness. They believe it is not helpful to evaluate the sugar content of the grapes as this could potentially produce errors in judgment during extremely hot vintages when sugar content precedes maturation of the grape.
As children in their family, they are taught to taste the berries paying attention to the skin and seeds. The berries are at optimal ripeness and ready to harvest only when they have a crisp texture.
Old vines, massale selection and naturally fertilized vineyards gives them the opportunity to harvest grapes that combine perfect physiological maturity with moderate potential alcohol, close to zero malic acid and high tartaric acid.
The first harvest is in Dolcetto in early-mid September. The Nebbiolo harvest is much longer and can last 3-4 weeks. Each vineyard parcel has a perfect moment of physiological maturity and can vary based on the age of the vines, as well as the directional exposure and altitude. During the harvest they gently lay each cluster of berries manually into boxes containing a maximum weight of 10kg (22 lbs.). This prevents the berries from breaking during their short trip from the vineyard to the winery where they are immediately de-stemmed and crushed.
WILD YEAST FERMENTATION: A few days before the grapes reach their physiological maturity for harvest, they go out into the vineyard and collect a few baskets of grapes to create the pied de cuve for a pre-fermentation.
By using this ancient technique, they reduce the many risks associated with natural fermentation such as certain non-Saccharomyces strains of yeast that may give unwanted aromas.
After collecting the grapes they are then pressed in a tub. Indigenous yeast fermentation begins after a few days and at this point they have full fermentation and are ready to continue the harvest.
During harvest they bring the grapes to the cellar where they are immediately de-stemmed and crushed to maintain freshness and integrity of the fruit.
With gravity the must ends up in tine truncated oak.
The must from their earlier wild yeast fermentation is then added at this point or at most within a few days depending on the conditions of each vintage.
LONG AGING IN LARGE OAK CASKS: The family follows a precise set of rules about aging their wine in large oak casks. Each wine should reach full maturity in wood and each single vineyard should express its own identity.
The Pira and Asili vineyards are based on purity and elegance and thus typically require three to four years large oaks before they reach their full expression.
The Crichet Pajé, Pajé and Montefico vineyards need longer ageing due to their structure and complexity thus requiring between four and ten years of ageing in large oak casks.
Each wine requires its own time and we do not follow a strict set of rules; however, they often look to their family history when considering the attributes of each unique wine.
They follow tradition by putting their wines in large cement casks to rest before bottling.
When a wine has reached full maturity, usually in the summer, they bottle the wine.
They meticulously select their wood which is often aged for up to ten years from a selection of suppliers who then hand build each large wooden cask. The staves are bent using steam instead of toasting which ensures that their wines mature slowly and maintain the purity of their wine without offering any wood flavours.
BOTTLING USING LOW SULFUR AND NO FILTRATION OR FINING: The native varieties of grapevines yield grapes high in tannins which after a long maceration and aging in large wood casks create wines with structure and complexity.
These qualities protect the wine from oxidation during maturation thus allowing them to use minimal levels of sulphur. In some wines they are not required to add any sulphur because there is already enough natural sulphur in the wine.
They attempt to use the lowest levels of sulphur possible, while maintaining the integrity of the wines for long aging. They mostly use sulphur to protect our wines from mold and bacteria.
Dolcetto matures for about one year, their white wine for two years, and the Barbaresco and Barolo wines for at least five years. After such long aging times there is no need to filter or clarify our wines because the wines are perfectly clean.
LONG MACERATION USING A SUBMERGED CAP: Over many centuries of experience they believe that the maceration of the grapes is a fundamentally important step as the cluster of grapes transforms into wine.
In the Langa their ancestors traditionally kept the skins of the berries in contact with the must for months.
Giovanni Roagna separated Nebbiolo juice from the skins just before or just after December 25th and sometimes into the month of January of the year after harvest as he had been taught by his ancestors.
The ancient technique of splinting or submerging the cap is practiced by fully closing the top opening of the wood cask and then placing the planks of oak in a parallel pattern.
The skins, or cap, is then fully submerged in the wine. This process allows for an elegant transfer of the wine as it retains some of the noble elements found in the skins. They macerate our wine for an average of sixty to one-hundred days.
FAMILY TRADITION: Quite simply, their family has always worked in the vineyards.
Today Alfredo and Luca Roagna, father, and son, work every day to care for each vine. Each vine is treated as an individual who year after year evolves to express the unique characteristics of their terroir.
They work tirelessly taking care of every single stage of the process from the vineyard to the bottle.
In the cellar after all the work they have done with selection and crushing, they also personally bottle and label the wine and prepare each box for shipping to their clients around the world. Each bottle of wine is handled at least six times before leaving the winery by Alfredo or Luca.
They do not have any other winemakers or agricultural specialists who work with them as they try only to interpret each vineyard with their generations of family experience.
PURITY FROM THE TERROIR WITHOUT ANY OAK FLAVOR: Their goal is to express the beauty of each singular piece of land in the wines without interfering in any way with smells or flavours associated with toasted wood.
They think that the uniqueness originated from their vineyards should dominate over winemaking techniques. If they balance all the factors unique to their vineyards and grapevines, they believe their wines will share this identity and emotion.